School District Wins Emergency Response Grant

Berkeley School District Will Use Federal Grant For Emergency Training, Replacement of Supplies

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Berkeley Unified School District has received a federal grant to update its schools' emergency response plans to help protect students in cases of violence or natural disasters.

The district received the Department of Education's Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools (REMS) grant of $250,000 to align district emergency plans with state and national requirements, train staff under Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines, provide training for emergency response teams at each school and run drills to ensure the updated plans work on the ground.

"There is no one situation to prepare for, it's everything," said district spokesperson Mark Coplan. "There's a whole set of scenarios that our schools practice on a regular basis. We've done a great deal to prepare for disasters in the last seven years, especially the last three."

According to Bernadette Cormier, the district's transportation manager and safety officer, the grant money will be used to perform a risk analysis of potential disaster scenarios for the district and formulate a district-wide emergency plan, evaluate and replace emergency supplies where needed and involve parents and community members throughout the planning and training processes, among other things.

"This year in particular we've highlighted the issue of emergency preparedness; that's how we came to apply for the REMS grant," Cormier said. "I don't think there's an endpoint with preparedness."

The district currently does search and rescue and fire suppression training with the fire department and will continue training staff at school sites to evacuate and shelter students and administer first aid.

"The fact is, in a disaster, emergency services will be going to places where there aren't groups of adults trained to respond to emergencies," Coplan said. "Between one third and one half of our staff has gone through training in regard to disaster. This will be a way to fund it adequately."

Throughout the grant period-Oct. 1, 2009 to March 1, 2011-the district will work with the city of Berkeley's Office of Emergency Services, the Berkeley Fire Department, parent committees at school sites and others to plan for natural disasters, such as fires, earthquakes and floods, as well as violent incidents, such as shootings near school sites.

Coplan and Cormier added that they are "excited" to utilize the REMS grant money to raise the standards of Berkeley Unified's emergency response programs.

Contact Heather Ross at [email protected]

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